These days, you’d think it would be easy for to find qualified and motivated manufacturing workers. Not according to employers. USA Today reports:
Manufacturers across the USA are having problems finding qualified employees, even though millions of factory workers lost jobs in recent years.
The most recent evidence of this came Thursday in a survey of 119 manufacturers in the Mid-Atlantic region. More than half of the 93 firms that hired in the last three months said finding workers with the right skills was difficult, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said.
Statistical quality control is a big deal in manufacturing now. Employers want workers who can keep track of data, read technical information, write reports and communicate with each other about problems.
Traditional, labor-intensive, assembly line jobs are largely a thing of the past. Employers are looking for workers who are experienced with technology, are analytical and are problem solvers.
“It puts a high premium on basic numerical skills, it puts a high premium on the ability to learn and to take instruction, but it also puts a high premium on … creativity,” says Thomas Duesterberg, president of Manufacturers Alliance, an industry group.
Employers also complain the work ethic has eroded.
Bob Confer of Confer Plastics in North Tonawanda, N.Y., says he has fired eight of the 18 people he has hired this year. They showed up late, didn’t show up at all or didn’t work hard — and those are the people he chose out of about 60 applications.
In 1996, I researched and wrote a Mercury News series called “Learning To Work.” (Thanks to the Merc’s new and even less functional archive system, I can’t give you a useful link.) In Silicon Valley’s first wave, former cannery workers became assembly workers with very little education or English fluency. I was told the new wave of workers had to be able to discuss problems with team members in English and analyze data. And they had to show up for work every day. Asian immigrants flooded into high-tech manufacturing because they had the work ethic and the math skills, but English fluency remained a challenge.